The Palestinian film "Paradise Now," which sympathetically depicts the lives of two Palestinian terrorists, won the Golden Globe and was nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures in Hollywood for the best foreign film Oscar.
How is it possible, I ask myself, that such a film is acclaimed by people of culture? The main reason is that terrorists active against Israel are regarded by many as freedom fighters, whose motives should be readily understood.
One word has transformed Palestinian terrorists into sympathetic figures in certain quarters, and has tainted all political discussion surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That word is "occupation."
All land not part of Israel until 1967 is deemed "occupied territory." And in dealing with supposedly stolen land, all means are justified.
By these criteria there can be no negotiations about Gush Etzion or other settlement blocs, no discussion about a united Jerusalem. These areas are illegally occupied, and have to be given back.
The term "occupation" also reminds people of the German occupation of Europe during World War II. This allusion to Nazism makes Israel's transgression even worse. It is only a small step from the "occupation" to a full-scale comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany. In this context, who can deny the Palestinians the right to fight the "occupation?"
Calling the West Bank "occupied" is irresponsible and unjustified. Let's remember that Israel didn't initiate the war in order to conquer land. Israel was attacked in 1967. Nor did it take land from a sovereign state. The West Bank and Gaza were illegally in the hands of Jordan and Egypt, respectively. The disputed areas were promised for Jewish settlements by the League of Nations in 1922, and all the resolutions of this body were transferred to the United Nations under Article 80 of the U.N. charter.
There is no parallel case in history that treats territories captured in a defensive war as occupied. Moreover, for most Arabs, all the land of the State of Israel is stolen ("the occupation started in 1948"), and those who speak about "occupation" of areas beyond the green line play into the hands of anti-Israel propagandists.
The soft treatment in the international community of the soon-to-be Hamas-led Palestinian Authority – which declares that all Israel has to be "liberated" by terrorism from "occupation" – is the proof for that. All use of the misleading term "occupied territories" encourages the double standard whereby many nations treat terror groups, such as Al Qaeda, one way and Palestinian terror organizations another way.
If there will come a time for a peace agreement between Israel and a reliable Palestinian partner, many concessions will have to be made. But to declare in advance that all these areas don't belong to Israel, that they are part of an illegal occupation, makes no sense.
Does the Old City of Jerusalem, which was attacked in 1948, not belong to Israel? Are areas like Gush Etzion not part of the Zionist enterprise? Have the survivors of the Jews brutally killed in the Hebron pogroms no right to return to their historical Jewish center?
Those who declare that great parts of Israel are occupied territories indirectly support the Arabs' claim that the Jews don't have true roots in the Holy Land.
The ugly efforts of the Arab propaganda to rewrite Jewish history, by saying, for instance, that the Temple never existed, are indirectly supported by those who speak flippantly about "occupied territories."
If Israel does not stress its rights in the Land of Israel, if it basically justifies the Arab position that large parts of Israel belong only to them and are forcibly stolen, then the Jewish state and its supporters cannot wonder when we see so many students on American campuses embracing the Palestinian propaganda narrative. We cannot be surprised that media people speak out against Israeli policies; we cannot wonder when major churches tell their congregants they are divesting from Israel; and we cannot wonder when a prestigious award is given to a film that shows understanding, even a certain admiration, for anti-Israel terrorists.
Arthur Cohn is an Academy Award-winning producer of films that include "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis."
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